An entertaining, if shallow, thriller.

RUNNING FOR THE HOUSE

An aspiring congressman is unwittingly a pawn in a complicated game of political espionage.

Kleinhendler’s debut thriller is the story of Michael Gordon, a businessman who decides to enter politics in midlife and run for Congress. Unbeknownst to Gordon, however, the people encouraging him to run and managing his campaign are members of a secret cabal known only as “the committee.” A sort of black-ops unit loosely connected with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the committee contains some of the world’s top spies. Their goal is to create a deadly biological weapon to combat the Russian control of South American drug markets, and their hope is to install Gordon as a puppet in Congress to help further their agenda. Gordon goes blithely along with the plan, never really suspecting just how much he is being manipulated and what he has really gotten himself into. The seemingly unerring committee rarely stumbles. They are able to pull the strings of virtually every other character in the book, even infecting one person with cancer. Kleinhendler certainly skimps on the character development in favor of thrills and complicated schemes. This is especially true when it comes to his female characters—nearly all are impossibly beautiful, sexy, smart and good with a gun. The convoluted plot—full of spies and femmes fatales—gets ever knottier as it nears its climax, and it’s hard to remember who is out to kill whom. Yet, this novel seems to bask in all of its thrills, sex and violence, and it’s appealing for not pretending to be anything other than what it is. It could be tailor-made for a Hollywood summer blockbuster, one where the guns rule the action while the stars coolly say lines like, “That was quite a mess in Rio.” In a time when the scope of the National Security Agency remains a hot-button issue, and drug cartels continue to wreak havoc around the world, this novel taps into a kind of escapist cultural zeitgeist.

An entertaining, if shallow, thriller.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500282585

Page Count: 318

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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A top-notch psychological thriller.

COLD COLD HEART

In Hoag’s (The 9th Girl, 2013, etc.) latest, talented young newscaster Dana Nolan is left to navigate a psychological maze after escaping a serial killer.

While recuperating at home in Shelby Mills, Indiana, Dana meets her former high school classmates John Villante and Tim Carver. Football hero Tim is ashamed of flunking out of West Point, and now he’s a sheriff’s deputy. After Iraq and Afghanistan tours, John’s home with PTSD, "angry and bitter and dark." Dana survived abduction by serial killer Doc Holiday, but she still suffers from the gruesome attack by "the man who ruined her life, destroyed her career, shattered her sense of self, damaged her brain and her face." What binds the trio is their friend Casey Grant, who's been missing five years, perhaps also a Holiday victim, even if "[t]he odds against that kind of coincidence had to be astronomical." Hoag’s first 100 pages are a gut-wrenching dissection of the aftereffects of traumatic brain injury: Dana is plagued by "[f]ear, panic, grief, and anger" and haunted by fractured memories and nightmares. "Before Dana had believed in the inherent good in people. After Dana knew firsthand their capacity for evil." Impulsive and paranoid, Dana obsesses over linking Casey’s disappearance to Holiday, with her misfiring brain convincing her that "finding the truth about what had happened to Casey [was] her chance of redemption." But then Hoag tosses suspects into the narrative faster than Dana can count: Roger Mercer, Dana’s self-absorbed state senator stepfather; Mack Villante, who left son John with "no memories of his father that didn’t include drunkenness and cruelty"; even Hardy, the hard-bitten, cancer-stricken detective who investigated Casey’s disappearance. Tense, tightly woven, with every minor character, from Dana’s fiercely protective aunt to Mercer’s pudgy campaign chief, ratcheting up the tension, Hoag’s narrative explodes with an unexpected but believable conclusion.

A top-notch psychological thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-95454-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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